Tag Archive | "roundup"

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That’s How Monsanto Makes Money

Posted on 08 April 2013 by Jerry

It takes teams of people to craft a viable strategy that gives a business success while no one is looking.  These include the best legal and legislative minds money can buy to make progress a word or a bill at a time.  Case in point is Monsanto.  The last couple of months show how Monsanto operates legislatively, corporately with other agricultural biotechnology behemoths, and globally to insure greater sales of genetically modified crops and herbicides.

Legislatively, Monsanto brought together its inside Congress man (Roy Blunt – U.S. Senator (R) from Missouri), its attorneys and strategists to craft a rider to benefit Monsanto that could be snuck into a bigger piece of legislation that would certainly pass.  It needed to be crafted in such a way as to not offend and yet compel the U.S. government to overrule the federal courts and act in accordance with Monsanto’s wishes.  It was written a word at a time to set precedents that would serve as the basis of future lobbying and political end-runs.

Such was what has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” that Barack Obama signed into law with his signature on House Resolution 933, which was a continuing resolution spending bill that Congress passed to give the government ongoing funding for its day-to-day operations.  The full text of the “Monsanto Protection Act” appears in article cited from The Guardian, below.  Of significance is selection of the phrase, “the secretary of agriculture shall”.  Shall is such a more pleasant word than Must even though its meaning is the same.

At the same time, it was announced that Monsanto and DuPont reached an agreement where they would stop their reciprocal lawsuits and DuPont would pay Monsanto royalties amounting to $1.75 billion over several years for access to Monsanto’s technology for genetically modified seeds.  After having lost one big case against Monsanto, DuPont saw great promise for its own seeds and herbicides using Monsanto’s technology to produce the next wave of herbicide resistant crops that will face a new wave of herbicide resistant weeds invading U. S. farms.

DuPont’s Pioneer brand agricultural seeds generated some $7.3 billion in sales in 2012.  Monsanto had total revenues of about $13.5 billion last year.  This is a sweet deal for these two leaders in the agricultural biotechnology space.

Separately, Monsanto reported its second quarter earnings for the beginning of 2013.  A Forbes article reporting Monsanto’s results cited net income for the quarter ending with February 2013 as $1.48 billion.  The article further cites Michael E. Cox of Piper Jaffrey as observing that higher sales of Roundup (Monsanto’s herbicide) and a lower-than-expected tax rate were responsible for the performance.  Oh look, herbicide sales are booming.  What a surprise!  Many have argued that Monsanto genetically modified seeds, which make plants impervious to Roundup, are really a way of allowing farmers to use Roundup indiscriminately to kill weeds since it will not hurt their GM crops.

Monsanto continues its full court press to spread use of its seeds around the world.  Even in its own sanitized press releases, Monsanto’s ambition is obvious.  This press release gives only hints of the complexity of its strategy, pervasiveness and costs it is incurring in just this one continent.  This is big international business at its most powerful and yet devious.  Its concentration on South American markets and Africa are where it expects it future profits to come from.  Blocked from many European Union countries and other developed nations in the world, developing nations are a key focus.  So far only the U.S. and Canada have completely embraced Monsanto and DuPont’s genetically modified crops.

The Guardian article cited below states that Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds make up 93% of U.S. soybeans, 88% of cotton and 86% of corn crops last year.  We do not have comparable data for Canada but are sure they closely follow the U.S. in GM crop percentages.

Chapter 13 of Beyond Animal, Ego and Time is completely focused on genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the inherent dangers they represent.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/05/who_snuck_in_the_monsanto_protection_act/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/26/statement-press-secretary-hr-933/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/04/monsanto-protection-act-gm/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2013-04-03/monsanto-raises-forecast-as-profit-tops-estimates-on-corn-seed.html

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/intacta-rr2-pro-benefits-for-south-american-countries.aspx

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Patents for Genetic Engineering Confuse & Miss the Point

Posted on 24 February 2013 by Jerry

Patent law covering genetically engineered foods and biotech technologies is in flux but only one outcome is on the side of history and humanity.  Courts are unsure about which products and technologies should be protected by patent.  A case filed by a 75 year old farmer against Monsanto is headed to the Supreme Court.  Another one rejected by a lower court, ratified by a federal appeals court and sent back for reconsideration by the Supreme Court is once again at the Supreme Court.

All of this controversy ignores the fundamental moral issues surrounding genetically altered foods.  In the book “Beyond Animal, Ego and Time”, an argument is made to recognize that life’s gene pool is its most commonly shared asset. The collective owner of the gene pool is life. Given its universally shared nature we should not allow any individual, corporation or government to own the genetics of any living organism that occurs naturally or any that has been genetically engineered or synthetically created.

The argument that genetically engineered products are not based on natural phenomena ignores that all of the processes genetic engineers and synthetic biologists are using were copied from bacteria and viruses which were the basis for these entire fields of science.  We must stop the profit motive as the major driver of such dangerous products.  Ownership of any life form should be illegal and no patent protection should be granted.  

That being the case, the behavior of Monsanto and the courts is instructive.  Monsanto has genetically engineered crops, in this case soybeans, to be resistant to harm from its own weed killing herbicide “Roundup”.  It has patented these and other seeds giving the farmer freedom to use as much of the weed killer as they please because it poses no risk to their genetically altered crop.  Monsanto requires a customer buy the seed from them each crop cycle.  If they plant the crop from seeds of plants grown in earlier seasons, they are still required to pay Monsanto even though the plants are from second generation seeds.  Obviously the weed killer is also supplied by Monsanto. 

At issue is a 75 year old farmer who is a good Monsanto customer for his main soybean crop but buys seed for a late season crop from a grain elevator known to have Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.  For this second late summer planting, which has greater risk because of the higher incidence of heat, drought and floods, the farmer has to plant twice as many seeds. 

He did not pay Monsanto for seed for the later crop arguing the seeds were from a grain elevator who licenses the seed from Monsanto.   In his view if Monsanto had an issue with anyone it was the grain elevator company.  Monsanto argued he was violating a contract he signs when he buys seed for his main crop.  The farmer said none of Monsanto contracts ever spoke about seed purchased from contracted third parties. 

Monsanto has a large staff whose sole purpose is to find cheating farmers who violate its patents and contract provisions.  Monsanto argues it is illegal to grow a crop using its patented technology without permission and payment.  The farmer argues that nature makes the plants whose seed was first bought and paid for by someone else.

The issue is how long and widely does Monsanto’s patent protection reach?  When referring to self replicating life forms, how many generations of the organism are included within the patent protection?  In addition, if the protected organism is purchased from a third party, who purchased it legally, what obligation extends to customers who buy from the third party?

Monsanto’s position in this lawsuit is suspect.  In a normal market, there are multiple avenues of distribution.  Buying a product from a third party who serves as the retailer does not involve legal obligation.  In addition, it could be argued these seeds, once again in a normal market, would not be so tightly controlled because they benefit another product from the same company, the herbicide product.  This should be analogous to a razor and razor blade market where the razor is sold for a very low price because the real profit is made on the blades.  This appears to be the same relationship between the seed and the herbicide.

The entire area of patent protection rightly remains contentious.  As an example, patents were not upheld in a recent case involving a San Diego company who patented a method of determining proper drug dosage.  In this case the Supreme Court ruled that no patent should have been issued because the way the test worked was based on the laws of nature.  In another recent case, the Supreme Court overturned patents that were granted to a Salt Lake City company.  Here it ruled that patents for naturally occurring genes should not be granted because there was no alteration by human beings and they were based once again on natural occurrences.

As previously stated, because all knowledge serving as the basis of genetic engineering was derived by study and copying of natural processes used by bacteria and viruses, these products should be considered based on natural occurrences and the laws of nature.  Unfortunately, our government, the courts, and these companies prefer to ignore where these sciences came from and the natural organisms on which they are based.

Use the following links to obtain further information:

http://www.nature.com/news/seed-patent-case-in-supreme-court-1.12445

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/business/supreme-court-to-hear-monsanto-seed-patent-case.html

http://www.nature.com/news/us-supreme-court-upends-diagnostics-parents-1.10270

http://www.nature.com/news/the-great-gene-patent-debate-1.11044

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/11/us-supreme-court-to-decide-on-gene-patents-in-myriad-case.html

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Roundup (Glyphosate) and Infertility

Posted on 27 April 2012 by Jerry

In a new study the chemical glyphosate, commonly referred to as GLYP, and glyphosate-based products like Monsanto’s Roundup Bioforce®, were found to cause testicular cells in rats to die within 24-48 hours after a dosage that is 10 times below the chemical level in normal agricultural use.  This chemical is used on crops that have been genetically engineered to not be harmed by the herbicide.  In an earlier August 2011 article, “Where there’s toxins, there’s….What?” we identified a study at the University of Sherbrook Hospital Center in Quebec that showed GLYP was found in the blood streams of the women studied.  The unknown of those findings was the physical effects of the exposure in their blood streams.  This new study gives us an indication of some of the long term effects of exposure to this chemical.

The lead French researcher, Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, released his report at the same time there were reports of GLYP contamination of ground water in Catalonia, Spain, and GLYP found in human urine samples at 4-20 times the level allowed in drinking water of Berlin City (0.1 micrograms per litre, or 0.1 parts per billion [ppb]).  An article summarizing these findings stated, “American consumers exposed to glyphosate through residual levels in genetically modified (GM) foods are likely to have even higher levels in their system; although no studies appear to have been done.”

Further the article observed, “The concentration of the herbicides used in the experiments ranged from 0.0001% (1ppm) of Roundup Bioforce®, (corresponding to 0.336ppm of pure glyphosate) to agricultural levels of 1% (10,000ppm)….  Further the permitted level of glyphosate residue on food or feed in the U.S. is 400 ppm or 400 times the lowest concentrations tested by Séralini and colleagues.  Thus, the concentrations used in the study are very relevant to human exposure as well as exposure of other animals.  Of particular concern is the scarcity of published data regarding the possible bioaccumulation of this herbicide, leaving us only able to speculate how much is in our bodies….Chronic exposure has not been sufficiently tested, and needs to be investigated.”

In another study also led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, he and his colleagues tested the effects on human tissue of combined exposure to both glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) and pesticides with the Bt toxins of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac.  Human embryonic kidney cell line 293 was the human tissue in the experiment.  The study looked at the effects of the combined exposure within a 24 hour period. 

Findings were as follows:

  • Cry1Ab caused cell death from 100 ppm with no effects detected from exposure to Cry1Ac.
  • Roundup, tested alone from 1 to 20,000 ppm, will kill cells from 50 ppm which is far below agricultural dilutions (50% lethal concentration at 57.5 ppm).

The conclusion reached in this research contradicts assertions of the chemical industry over the last 20 years. Unfortunately the dosages administered in a very short time are considered too high to be conclusive.  More prolonged exposure to smaller dosages are required.  The researchers stated however, “In these results, we argue that modified Bt toxins are not inert on nontarget human cells, and that they can present combined side-effects with other residues of pesticides specific to GM plants.”

Use the following link to obtain more information on this story:

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/glyphosate_kills_rat_testis_cells.php

http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/crucial27.htm

 

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